What Lisa Watched Last Night #176: Bad Tutor (dir by Jeff Hare)

Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime film, Bad Tutor!

Why Was I Watching It?

After you watch enough Lifetime films, you come to learn a few things.  For instance, any film that’s called Bad Something is probably going to be worth watching.  Over the years, there have been Bad Students, Bad Teachers, Bad Doctors, Bad Husbands, Bad Assistants, and Bad Realtors.  Really, it was only a matter of time until they got around to a Bad Tutor.

(My hope is that they will follow this up with a film called Bad Tudor, just because I assume all sorts of crazy stuff was going on with the court of Henry VIII.)

What Was It About?

It’s a simple film about three people who have hopes and problems.

For instance, Kelly (Vanessa Marcil) is a widow who is hoping to find a new husband but who also has a rebellious teenage daughter.

Emily (Alex Frnka) is Kelly’s daughter.  She hopes to become a famous singer but first, she has to pass her chemistry midterm.  When the movie starts, she’s currently on the road to getting a D in that class.  Emily says that people are going to be too busy responding to her music to care if she passed chemistry.  Kelly worries that Emily won’t be able to get into a good college with that D following her around.

Devon (Charles Hittinger) is a chemist who claims to be a former teacher.  Devon hopes that he’ll be able to get Emily to fall in love with him, largely because Emily looks just like his dead girlfriend.  Devon’s problem is that he’s batshit insane and the only reason his girlfriend is dead is because he pushed her off of a cliff.

When Kelly meets Devon, she decides that he would be the perfect tutor for Emily.  Little does she suspect that Devon is actually … a bad tutor!

What Worked?

Vanessa Marcil gave a pretty good performance as Kelly.  I liked the fact that, as opposed to the typical perfect Lifetime mother, Kelly not only made mistakes but also owned up to them.

The film’s opening, which started with Devon proposing to his girlfriend and ended with him pushing her off of a cliff, was well-handled.

What Did Not Work?

Here’s the thing: when it comes to Lifetime movies, we all agree, to an extent, to suspend our disbelief.  We accept the fact that characters will sometimes act stupidly and we try not to hold that against them.

But, sometimes, you run into a character who is just so utterly stupid that, try as you may, you just can’t forgive them.  That was the case with Emily in Bad Tutor.  Not only was Emily something of a spoiled brat but she also turned out to be amazingly gullible.  After spending the first half of the movie making fun of the nerdy Devon, Emily changed her tune when Devon claimed to have a friend in the recording industry.  Never did Emily ask for any proof or anything.  Instead, she just ran away from home with Devon.  Looking over her actions, I have to say I’m surprised that she was only failing one class.

Finally, Emily did sing a few times and … well, let’s just hope that she gets into a good college.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I related to Emily, largely because I too was a rebellious teenager who couldn’t sing.

Lessons Learned

I didn’t learn anything because he was a bad tutor.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #175: Devious Nanny (dir by Devon Downs and Kenny Gage)

Last night, I turned over to the Lifetime Movie Network and I watched Devious Nanny!

Why Was I Watching It?

I’ve got a long history with Lifetime nanny films.  I’ve watched films about Bad Nannys, Betrayed Nannys, Nightmare Nannys, Evil Nannys, Killer Nannys, and Dangerous Nannys.  So, how could I resist something called Devious Nanny?

(Actually, it was apparently also called both The Nanny Betrayal and The Au Pair.  Devious Nanny, though is an improvement on both of those.)

What Was It About?

Elise (Michelle Borth) and Brian (Antonio Cupo) have it all.  Elise works at an art gallery.  Brian works in … well, I think it was advertising but I could be wrong.  All I know is that he worked in an office and he was worried about landing a big account and he wore a suit to work.  Isn’t that what they do in advertising?  Anyway, it’s a good job.  Brian and Elise have a nice house and an adorable son.  All they need to complete the picture is … an au pair!

Enter Amber (Olesya Rulin), who appears to be the perfect nanny.  She loves kids and she’s even okay with cleaning up around the house!  Of course, Amber did lie a little to get her job.  And she didn’t tell her new employers that she grew up in the foster system and that she has a history of mental instability.  Soon, Brian and Amber are exchanging lustful glances and people are turning up dead.

But here’s the thing.  I’ve seen enough killer nanny films that I immediately realized that it was probably significant that the film never actually showed Amber killing anyone.  So, is Amber the murderer or is it someone else?  The film is full of suspects!

What Worked?

It all worked.  This was the type of Lifetime movie that made me fall in love with the unique Lifetime aesthetic in the first place.  Well-acted and full of snarky lines, Devious Nanny also featured a rather clever last-minute plot twist.  The end of the film also features a line of dialogue that is perhaps the coldest sentiment over to be offered up in a Lifetime film.

Needless to say, this was a fun movie to live tweet.  Those of us on twitter last night had a blast trying to figure out who the killer was and who was going to be the next victim.

All in all, it was a very entertaining movie.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked!  At first, I was worried that the film would turn out to be just another Lifetime Nanny film but the script, by Adam Rockoff, was full of unexpected plot twists.  I’m going to guess that Rockoff has seen enough nanny films that he knew exactly what most people would be expecting and he very skillfully manipulated those expectations.

In fact, my only issue is that Lifetime aired this on Friday night and it didn’t really seem like they made much of an effort to publicize it.  Sometimes, I think Lifetime doesn’t truly understand just how many people love watching their movies.  They’ll promote the Hell out of some forgettable (and often regrettable) celebrity biopic but entertaining thrillers, like this one, rarely get the fanfare that they deserve.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I’ve been lucky, in that I’ve never had to work as an au pair.  I’ve also never been suspected of murder.  I guess I’ve just lived a sheltered life.  However, if any of that did happen to me, I would hope, when it was all over, that I could be as snarky about it as Amber.

Lessons Learned

Life’s not easy when you’re a nanny.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #174: Cocaine Godmother (dir by Guillermo Navarro)

Last night, I watched the Lifetime gangster epic, Cocaine Godmother!

Why Was I Watching It?

You can find the answer in this review’s opening sentence.  Cocaine Godmother was a gangster epic that was made for Lifetime!  How insane is that!

Add to that, the life of Griselda Blanco has, as of late, become a very popular subject matter.  Ever since everyone went crazy over a documentary called Cocaine Cowboys, there have been Griselda films in development.  Though Cocaine Godmother may have been the first to premiere, HBO has a film coming out starring Jennifer Lopez as Griselda.  There’s also another film in development, one which will star  Catalina Sandino Morena as the Godmother.  Apparently, 2018 is going to be the year of Griselda.

What Was It About?

The film follows Griselda Blanco (played, as an adult, by Catherine Zeta-Jones), from her youth all the way to her assassination in 2012.  Griselda grows up in horrific poverty in Colombia, pimped out by her own mother and committing her first murder when a man refuses to pay her.  Griselda tries to escape through a conventional marriage but, when that doesn’t work out, she marries a series of drug smugglers and soon proves herself to be just as ruthless and violent as any of her male rivals.  When she’s not snorting cocaine, she’s murdering husbands, mistresses, and even children.  It’s tempting to say that Griselda’s only redemption is to be found in the love she feels for her sons and for Carolina (Jenny Pellicer) but, actually, there is no redemption for anyone in this movie.  From beginning to end, everyone’s terrible.

What Worked?

Somehow, the entire film worked.  You don’t necessarily expect to see an effective and violent gangster film on Lifetime but somehow, Cocaine Godmother pulled it off.

Two things held this film together.  One was Catherine Zeta-Jones’s performance as Griselda Blanco.  Whether she was casually snorting cocaine on an airplane, explaining why children have to be killed along with their parents, or gunning down one of her husbands, Zeta-Jones was never less than compelling.

Secondly, there was Guillermo Navarro’s direction, which never allowed the pace to slacken.  For a two hour and thirty minute film, Cocaine Godmother was mercifully free of slow spots.  Considering that he was working under the restraints of television, Navarro did a great job bringing Girselda’s story to life.

What Did Not Work?

I was a little worried when I first heard the narrator.  Narrators are usually a sign of doom in a Lifetime movie and there were a few times when the narration got a bit too obvious.  That said, it was only a minor issue.  For the most part, the entire film worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Griselda may have been a terrible person but she had great tastes in movies.  For instance, we both appreciate The Godfather films.  That said, unlike Griselda, I probably wouldn’t name my son after Michael Corleone.  I’d be more likely to name him after Tom Hagan because Tom made all the money but he never had to shoot anyone.

Lessons Learned

Don’t get high on your own supply.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #173: Blood, Sweat, and Lies (dir by Lane Shefter Bishop)

On Friday night, I watched the first Lifetime film of 2018, Blood, Sweat, and Lies!

Why Was I Watching It?

I just told you.  It was the first Lifetime film of 2018.  There was no way I couldn’t watch it.

Of course, there was a slight conflict in that Blood, Sweat, and Lies premiered at the exact same time as the U.S. Figure Skating Championship.  So, while Blood, Sweat, and Lies was originally airing, I was busy yelling at the judges for the way they treated Ashley Wagner.  (Whatever controversy she may find herself in, I will always be on the side of Ashley Wagner.)  However, as soon as the I finished yelling, I switched over to the DVR and I watched Blood, Sweat, and Lies.

What Was It About?

Once upon a time, Mel (Hannah Barefoot) was a college track star.  In fact, she was such a committed athlete that she decided to major in something easy so she would have more time to run track.  Apparently, in the weird, alternative universe that this film takes place in, art history is an easy major.  However, Mel quickly fell in love with art and, when she graduated from college, she gave up athletics to become a curator.  (“That’s all you can do with an art history degree,” she said with a laugh while I, the proud recipient of a degree in art history, tried to resist the temptation to throw a show at the TV.)

So now, Mel is a successful curator but she misses being an athlete.  When she breaks up with her boyfriend, she decides to start a new chapter in her life.  She joins the local gym.  She gets a personal trainer named Trey (Adam Huber).  Since this is a Lifetime movie, it takes Trey about 60 minutes to go from being a supportive nice guy to a full-on psycho stalker.  When Mel starts dating a muscular art collector named Adam (Matt Cedeño), Trey is not happy…

What Worked?

I think the biggest mistake that anyone could make with Blood, Sweat, and Lie would be to take any of it too seriously.  If you take the movie seriously, then you’ll probably complain that it was predictable, the plot was full of holes, and Mel should have known better than to have trusted Trey in the first place.

However, if you’re like me, you’ll assume that this film was meant to be at least a little bit satirical and you’ll find a lot to be amused by.  For instance, consider the opening scene in which Mel is seen holding a knife and smearing what appears to be blood on her face.  At first, we assume that she’s just a typical Lifetime movie psycho but it’s soon revealed that she’s actually just trying to make a cake.

Or how about the scene where Trey and Adam meet at the gym and proceed to exchange passive aggressive insults.  That was like Overage Dudebros Gone Wild.

Or there’s Mel’s best friend, Leslie (Briana Lane), who is not only a brilliant hacker but who also apparently shares every single thought that pops into her head.  Often times, I got the feeling that Leslie understood that she was just a character in a movie and she was actually pretty okay with that.

And, of course, there’s the scene where, while Mel and Adam make love, Trey sits in his office and monitors Mel’s heart rate.  It was strange, wrong, weird, and hilarious all at the same time.  And really, that’s pretty much a perfect description of the entire film.  It was just so melodramatic and full of over the top emoting that it was hard not to find something about it to enjoy.

(Plus, while I was watching the movie, I came up with a drinking game where you take a drink every time Adam or Trey calls someone “bro.”)

What Did Not Work?

Art history is not an easy major!  (Admittedly, it was easy for me but I understand that there were others who definitely found it a little bit difficult.)

And you can do a lot of stuff with an art history degree … well, maybe not a lot of stuff but definitely some stuff…  Actually, I guess the film kind of has a point as far as that’s concerned.  But still…!

“OMG!  JUST LIKE ME!” Moments

Despite the fact that Mel and I were both art history majors, I actually found myself relating more to Leslie.  This was largely because both Leslie and I tend to say, “O. M. G” in politic conversation.

Lessons Learned

Art history majors never get the respect they deserve.


What Lisa Watched Last Night #172: Web Cam Girls (dir by Doug Campbell)

Last night, I watched one of the final Lifetime movies of 2017, Web Cam Girls!

Why Was I Watching It?

Well, the obvious answer is that I was watching it because it was on Lifetime and our regular readers know how much I love Lifetime!

However, from the minute that I saw the first commercial for Web Cam Girls, I grew convinced that it would be better than the average 2017 Lifetime film.  The commercials were just so melodramatic and wonderfully sordid.  If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that the best Lifetime films always seem to be about capitalizing on people’s fear of the dark web.  (Then again, people probably should be scared of the dark web…)

Finally, I knew that I was going to have to review this film just because of the title.  Now, whenever someone does a search for “web cam girls,” there’s a good chance they’ll end up on this site.  They’ll probably get mad once they arrive here but a click is a click.

What Was It About?

Carolyn (Lorynn York) needs money so she becomes a web cam girl.  Her cousin, Alex (Sedona Legge), says it’s a bad and dangerous idea but Carolyn claims that it’s actually the safest way to make money.  She never meets the men who watch her.  All she has to do is undress a little on camera and, pretty soon, she’ll be able to get an apartment in New York and make all of her dreams come true.

But then, one night, Carolyn gives in to temptation to agrees to meet one of her admirers in a sleazy motel.  She promptly vanishes, leaving Alex and their friend Shawn (Liam McKanna) to try to figure out what happened.  Was she kidnapped and, if so, by whom?  There are suspects all around and it’s starting to look like the only way Alex is going to find her is by going on camera herself.

What Worked?

Oh my God, Lifetime really did save the best for last!  After a year that left many longtime Lifetime viewers feeling somewhat disappointed, Lifetime finally gave us the type of movie that made us fall in love with the network in the first place.  Web Cam Girls is wonderfully melodramatic, over the top, and incredibly entertaining.  The houses are beautiful, the villain is perhaps one of the most evil characters to ever appear in a Lifetime film, and the whole thing is full of details that will reward the observant viewer.

For instance, Carolyn, Alex, and Shawn discuss watching Sunrise in film class.  Sunrise, of course, is a film about an innocent who is tempted by the sinful city, much in the same way that Carolyn and Alex are tempted by the sinful internet.  Later, another teacher tells Alex that he was impressed with her essay about H.P. Lovecraft.  References to both Lovecraft and F.W. Murnau in a Lifetime movie?  How can’t you love that?

It was also well-acted.  Stephen Graybill and Joe Hackett were memorable as two sinister teachers.  I liked both Jon Bridell as Carolyn’s drunk but ultimately heroic father and John Dinan as his best friend.  In the role of Carolyn’s mentor, Nikki, Tonya Kay made such a strong impression that a lot of us on twitter were demanding that Nikki get a spin-off film of her own.  Down to the smallest part, everyone made their character interesting.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

When I was in high school, I also used to dress in black and write essays about H.P. Lovecraft.

Lessons Learned

Beware the dark web!


What Lisa Watched Last Night #171: Ten: Murder Island (dir by Chris Robert)

Last night, Drink Slay Love was not the only Lifetime premiere that I watched.  I also watched Ten Murder Island!

Why Was I Watching It?

The obvious answer, of course, is that it was on Lifetime and, whenever I review a Lifetime film, this site gets an upsurge in clicks.

But, beyond that, I liked the commercials for Ten: Murder Island.  They looked moody and atmospheric.  When I read that the movie was about ten people being stalked and murdered on an island, I immediately was reminded of Harper Island, a.k.a. the scariest TV show ever.  How could I not watch, right?

What Was It About?

Ten teenagers have gathered at a house that’s located on an isolated island.  They’re throwing a weekend party but a storm not only knocks out all the power but also everyone’s phone signal.  Add to that, someone on the island is killing everyone, one by one.  Uh-oh!

Why are they being targeted?  Does it have anything to do with Claire Hicks, an unpopular student who committed suicide shortly after homecoming?  Considering that pages ripped from her journal keep appearing at every murder scene, that would seem to be a safe bet.  Will the smart and studious (and kinda boring) Meg (China Anne McClain) be able to figure out what’s happening before everyone’s dead?  And will her pseudo-boyfriend TJ (Rome Flynn) ever come clean about what happened at homecoming?

What Worked?

Both the house and the island were well-chosen locations and, visually, the film had a memorably spooky atmosphere.  If nothing else, while you were watching Ten, you were convinced that anyone could die at any moment.  No one seemed to be safe.  The deaths themselves were, for a Lifetime film, surprisingly graphic and rather mean-spirited.  This killer wasn’t missing around.

I especially liked the flashback scenes that accompanied the reading of Claire’s journals.  They were well-handled, with everyone’s face literally scratched out and obscured, keeping you guessing as to who Claire was writing about.

What Did Not Work?

As I watched Ten: Murder Island, I couldn’t help but be bothered by the fact that no one on the island really seemed to be that upset by the fact that all of their friends were being brutally and gruesomely murderer.  Meg and TJ would get upset whenever they stumbled across a body but, in the very next scene, they would be laughing and flirting and teasing each other about homecoming.

This movie also featured a truly cringeworthy line that was uttered right after Meg learned the terrible truth about what happened at homecoming.  After learning about a truly terrible thing that happened, Meg turns to TJ and exclaims, in all sincerity, “I didn’t realize I meant that much to you!”  Now, I can’t say too much without spoiling the movie but, just to indicate how inappropriate this response felt, this is what I tweeted as soon as I heard the line:

I mean, it’s generally accepted that the majority of characters in a movie like this are going to be douchebags but Ten: Murder Island really abused the privilege.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I totally related to Kumiko (Annie Q), who was the sarcastic girl who had no hesitation about accusing Meg of being a murderer and who seemed to be more annoyed than terrified by the all the lethal drama going on around her.

Lessons Learned

There’s only one Harper’s Island.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #170: Drink Slay Love (dir by Vanessa Parise)

Last night, I watched a new Lifetime film, Drink Slay Love!

Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was on Lifetime, of course!

Plus, it was a Canadian film about vampires.  I love Canada and I love vampires!  Ever since that episode of Degrassi where Emma got a “social disease” while playing Mina in a school production of Dracula, Canada and vampires have mixed well.

(Now, I should admit, that, while watching Drink Slay Love, I was also watching a film called The Dead Don’t Die on YouTube.  I’m a big believer in multitasking.)

What Was It About?

Pearl (Cierra Ramirez) has a life that most of us can only have erotically-themed nightmares about.  She’s a sixteen year-old vampire princess.  She’s headstrong.  She’s a little bit bratty.  She’s convinced that nothing can hurt her.  Even after she’s the victim of an attempted staking, she still insists on going out in the middle of the night by herself.  On the plus side, Pearl doesn’t attack animals.  She only attacks humans, especially Brad, the poor guy who works at a 24 hour ice cream parlor and who never remembers Pearl’s nightly visits, in which she always gets a scoop of mint ice cream and a pint of blood.

However, everything changes when it’s discovered that Pearl is immune to sunlight!  She is a rare vampire who can actually walk around in the daylight.  This leads to her parents getting the brilliant idea of sending Pearl to high school.  There’s a big feast coming up and apparently, teenage blood is in high demand.  However, once Pearl arrives at the school, she starts to make friends, almost despite herself.  She starts to do the type of things that teenagers in Lifetime movies always do.  How can she set her new friends up to be the main course?

Of course, some of her new friends have secrets of their own.  You know how that goes…

What Worked?

This was a nice change of pace for Lifetime.  After endless movies about obsessive stalkers and stolen babies and bad celebrity lookalikes, it was nice to see something different on Lifetime.  I’m going to guess that Drink Slay Love was made with October in mind and really, this is a good movie for people who want celebrate Halloween without getting traumatized.  It’s not particularly scary but it’s got vampires and it’s enjoyably silly.

Cierra Ramirez did a good job as Pearl.  Pearl is a very sardonic vampire, which is the best type of vampire to be.  Ramirez delivered her sarcastic dialogue with just the right amount of bite.  (Heh heh, see what I did there?)

If the director’s name seems familiar, that’s because Vanessa Parise has directed several Lifetime movies.  She does a good job with Drink Slay Love, keeping the story moving at a good pace and getting good performances from the entire cast.

What Did Not Work?

To be honest, I liked the whole film.  Even the occasionally sketchy CGI added to the film’s charm.

“Oh my God!  Just like me moments!”

I related to Pearl.  Well, I didn’t necessarily relate to the blood sucking.  But I was really sarcastic when I was sixteen, too.  Plus, I always used to dress in black and then dare anyone to make a comment about it… (Actually, not that much has changed since then…)

Lessons Learned

Canada and Vampires are a good combination!